Collaborating with Jason Vieaux, Baladino and Henhouse Prowlers

In my time at Fifth House Ensemble, I have been part of three collaborations with fellow performers to date. Each one has been an incredible learning experience through which I now constantly rethink how to  creatively and intuitively connect with my violin.

The charm of working with Baladino was also the challenge – overcoming the barriers of Classical musical notation and learning how to enter Baladino’s sound world by ear. Since this was my first time really delving into World music or anything that does not fall within the Classical music world, it was particularly hard for me to separate my playing from the ink on the page. And while we did have notated arrangements of their songs to start the collaborative process, many revisions happened on the fly and were constantly evolving. Gradually, I learned to hear how my violin could fit into music that was being created in the room – improvising rather than perfecting a scripted classic. With time and endless repetitions, the Mediterranean beat patterns became ingrained; in other words, I learned to groove!

The work with Henhouse Prowlers a year later was more accessible to me, in parts because of the work we had done with Baladino and in part because the musical language of Bluegrass is much closer to Western Classical music. Most songs we explored were in common time signatures and keys so that I could explore aspects of the style earlier on in the collaboration. After having opened up the door for experimentation with Baladino, Henhouse Prowlers pushed all of us to improvise by going around in a circle over the same chord progression. It gave everyone an equal chance to be vulnerable and make mistakes in the safety of a laid back environment. Thanks to them, I nowadays feel much more at home with taking myself out of my comfort zone and using my violin in new ways.

Much of the experiences with Baladino and the Henhouse Prowlers have come together in Living Language and in our collaboration with Jason Vieaux. Dan Visconti’s concerto pulls from many different influences including Mediterranean folk and Bluegrass music, which I can connect with on a much more intuitive level thanks to the work with Baladino and Henhouse. Living Language brings in beat patterns that are reminiscent of some Baladino songs; The relentless drive of the third movement brings me back to attempting string chops with the Henhouse Prowlers. Since I also have the honor of playing the Bartok Romanian Dances with Jason, I get to play with him in a supportive role and as equal partners. The fluidity in the collaborative roles has been a wonderful blend of exploration and coming back home to my Classical training.

I am looking forward to the continue the work with Jason Vieaux, the Henhouse Prowlers, and Baladino and am eager to see how I will grow from new collaborations in the future!

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